I don’t like to call myself a super-fan of any band, because there are just so many great talents of different genres that I enjoy here in LA. However, if you ask me which band I consistently see again and again without fail, it’s Las Cafeteras, and on Wednesday, February 27, they are having a kick-off party at Los Globos for their SXSW tour. They are the only Latin Indie band representing Los Angeles there and this is sure to be a massive foot-stomping, ear-popping fiesta with the support of DJs Canyon Cody & Ethos of Subsuelo, the popular underground global bass party in LA that was recently featured by ABC/Univision.
All of the members of Las Cafeteras met at EastSide Café, a community center in El Serano, where son jarocho, traditional Afro-Latino folk music from Veracruz, Mexico, was being taught. Being community organizers and activists, not trained musicians, Las Cafeteras did not originally intend to pursue music. They were simply using their common love of son jarocho music as a community-empowering way to voice the many stories of struggle, defiance and hope coming from their immigrant East LA neighborhoods and adding their own defiant, provocative flavor to traditional folk music to inspire today’s generation of Chicanos.
Their political activism and pride in their roots can be found in their infectious reworking of the old son jarocho song La Bamba, popularized by Ritchie Valens, but with the new anthem, “”Yo no creo en fronteras/Yo no creo en fronteras/Yo cruzaré, yo cruzaré.” I don’t believe in borders. I don’t believe in borders, I will cross, I will cross.
When not playing music, Las Cafeteras all have their day jobs and they set aside their music earnings to keep EastSide Café open and offering son jarocho and other classes for the community. Hector Flores is the commanding orator of the group, who always punctuates their performances with eloquent speeches about remembering our common roots as immigrants and not forgetting our history and past struggles, and empowering and uniting our hard-working communities together for change. Ultimately, they sing about the beauty and promise of the diversity of Los Angeles and all its people and at every show like this past one at Self Help Graphics & Arts, I can’t help dancing my feet off while reflecting on the greater message of their music. Come out to their big send-off to Austin — I guarantee you’ll be inspired too!
UPDATE (02/19/13): On a related note, if you’d like to learn more about the African musical influence in Mexico, the Consulate General of Mexico is presenting a special program and musical performance The ThirdRoot: The Musical Legacy of the Afro-Mexicans on Thursday 2/21, in commemoration of Black History Month. Some members of Las Cafeteras will be performing as part of the ensemble group and it’s open to the public and free first-come, first-serve with RSVP required.